The forest products sector got some of what it wished for Christmas in the recently passed 2018 Farm Bill. But the major agricultural bill didn’t include everything on the wish list. President Trump signed the legislation into law just before Christmas.
Dana Lee Cole, executive director of the Hardwood Federation, commented, “The Hardwood Federation was very pleased that many of our top priorities are contained in the 2018 re-authorization of the Farm Bill, including essential funding for export promotion programs, resources that will further develop capacities for tall wood buildings, measures to facilitate the installations of biomass heat and power systems and improvements to federal forest management practices.”
The bill includes language positively impacting issues of significant importance to the forest products industry. First, it reauthorizes and fully funds two programs — the Foreign Market Development Program and the Market Access Program. According to the Hardwood Federation, these programs are important for developing global markets. The bill also includes provisions of the Timber Innovation Act that support research and development of technologies for tall wood buildings — such as cross-laminated timber (CLT).
The Hardwood Federation praised two other measures in the bill. It increases the scope and authorization of the Community Wood Energy Program, which will help create markets for hardwood sawmill residuals.
Also, forest management reform measures will promote healthy national forest lands, which is vital to a healthy forest product economy. These reforms will increase access for recreational activities, improve wildlife habitat development and reduce forest fires through active management. However, those measures are not as extensive as the industry had advocated for in the past.
The American Wood Council, which partnered with the National Alliance of Forest Owners and the Southeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association in lobbying for passage of the Farm Bill, also praised the outcome.
“We are pleased that the final Farm Bill promotes further research and development into mass timber, an emerging category of wood products that will revolutionize how America builds,” said council president and CEO Robert Glowinski in a news release. “Use of mass timber will allow the United States to build tall buildings out of renewable, carbon-sequestering materials.”
Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley issued a joint statement praising the Timber Innovation Act provisions of the Farm Bill.
Merkley noted the senators have been working to establish Oregon as a hub for mass timber products. The Farm Bill supports “innovative manufacturing” that helps to create jobs in rural parts of the state and lays the groundwork for future sustainable tall wood building construction across America, he said.
The provisions are “good news” for mass timber products in Oregon, added Wyden. Oregon has been at the forefront of developing wood building products like CLT, glue laminated timber, laminated strand lumber and laminated veneer.
The Farm Bill passed by a vote of 368- 47. The previous record high House vote on the Farm Bill was 319. Earlier versions of the bill had some stronger language in there to support the forest products sector, but some of that had to be watered down a bit to ensure passage in Congress.
Shortly after signing the Farm Bill into law, President Donald J. Trump issued an executive order regarding active management of America’s forests and rangelands.
President Trump stated, “Active management of vegetation is needed to treat these dangerous conditions on Federal lands but is often delayed due to challenges associated with regulatory analysis and current consultation requirements. In addition, land designations and policies can reduce emergency responder access to Federal land and restrict management practices that can promote wildfire-resistant landscapes. With the same vigor and commitment that characterizes our efforts to fight wildfires, we must actively manage our forests, rangelands, and other federal lands to improve conditions and reduce wildfire risk.”
The executive order calls on federal authorities to set shared priorities to manage fire risks and coordinate responses after any devastation with a focus on removing hazardous fuels.
The order set specific goals to initiate more active management including:
• Treating 3.5 million acres of Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service (FS) lands to reduce fuel load.
• Treating 2.2 million acres of USDA FS lands to protect water quality and mitigate severe flooding and erosion risks arising from forest fires.
• Treating 750,000 acres of USDA FS lands for native and invasive species.
• Reducing vegetation giving rise to wildfire conditions through forest health treatments by increasing health treatments as part of USDA’s offering for sale at least 3.8 billion board feet of timber from USDA FS lands.
• Performing maintenance on roads needed to provide access on USDA FS lands for emergency services and restoration work.
These are very favorable action steps to improve forest health. But it isn’t clear yet where money will come from to undertake all these and other goals outlined in the executive order. But at least, it shows that the current administration believes in active management focused on prevention and not just cleaning up after the disaster.
American Forest & Paper Association President and CEO Donna Harman said, “Public policy that encourages sustainable management of our nation’s forests will continue to earn our support. That’s why we backed a number of Farm Bill provisions, including the Conservation Reserve Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program and National Reforestation Initiative and agree with the goals of the President’s Executive Order on forest management. Measures like these play a central role in the health of our forests, help reduce materials that fuel catastrophic wildfires and ensure the availability of a long-term, continuous supply of raw materials to make products that improve peoples’ lives and support jobs in rural communities across America.”
For more information on Trump’s executive order on forestry management, visit https://tinyurl.com/y845e55o.